Refreshing A Vintage Dollhouse

Once Upon A Time, a little girl was gifted a charming Bavarian dollhouse by her grandmother.  It came with hand-painted furniture and tiny dolls dressed in traditional Bavarian costumes.

Vintage Dora Kuhn dollhouse and furniture with vintage dolls

The dollhouse gradually fell out of favor as the girl grew.  It was stored for decades in places like basements and attics, never seeing the light of day.  But the dollhouse never really left the girl’s heart.

Then a pandemic swept across the land.  The girl, now a woman of some years (the actual number of years will not be revealed here), finally found she had the time to bestow some love and attention upon the aging dollhouse.

So today you’re invited to leave reality behind for a moment and come along on a tour of a refreshed vintage dollhouse.

But first . . .

A Little History

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It didn’t take much searching to find that my dollhouse and its furniture were made in Germany by the Dora Kuhn company.  Dora Kuhn’s father began making toy furniture in 1911.

I learned that my dollhouse is also called a “room box.” It and the furniture were likely made in the 1960s, and all the pieces are hand painted.

My dollhouse measures about 20″ X 13″ X 8″  but I was surprised to learn that the company made several sizes of room boxes and furniture.  Some of them look almost exactly like mine in photos, but they are actually much smaller.

This informative blog post covers the company’s interesting history, and it contains some great photos of various Dora Kuhn pieces.


Old Doll House, New Goals

My main objective with the dollhouse was to make it usable for my little niece so that she can enjoy it when she visits.  But, since this dollhouse does have some value, I want to preserve all of its original features.

Am I worried that my niece might damage it?  No. The pieces have been pretty durable so far and, when she is able to visit us again, she’ll only be playing with it on occasion.  (Since it’s really just a one-room cabin, I expect her interest in it to be fleeting anyway.)

What Goes And What Stays

When I first brought the dollhouse out of our attic space, where it had been stored for the past 12 years or so, I was expecting it to look worse.  But it was in surprisingly good shape.

The topcoat of varnish on the furniture pieces and on the room box itself had developed a patina, but that just added to the charm.  I simply gave the pieces a thorough and careful cleaning.

However, as expected, fabric items did not fare as well over the decades.  The doll costumes were beginning to fray, and attempts to clean and repair them would no doubt result in further damage.

Vintage German dollhouse dolls

Uncleaned, these decades-old fabrics potentially harbor mold and mildew.  So it just doesn’t work for my niece to play with these dolls.  I don’t yet know if they have any value other than sentimental, but for the moment they will be safely stashed away.

The curtains and bed cushions are in fairly decent shape, but the bed cushions are stuffed with something.  It feels like either sawdust or something that has disintegrated into sawdust.  So washing the bedding is probably not a great idea.

Vintage Dora Kuhn dollhouse and furniture

I decided to carefully remove the curtains and store them and the bedding somewhere safe.

The Fun Begins!

Even as a child, I wasn’t crazy about the red and white checkered fabric anyway.  So off I went to the fabric store to find some fun new bedding and curtain fabrics.

The Bed

I’ve always adored this four-post covered bed.  But, as far as I can remember, the bed didn’t come with a mattress.

So I cut a piece of foam and covered it with fabric for a fitted sheet.

Dora Kuhn Dollhouse bed

I made two pillows with the same fabric.  The bed is topped with a quilt made with a coordinating, reversible quilted fabric.

Dora Kuhn dollhouse bed


Vintage Dora Kuhn dollhouse bed

Table, Chairs, and Curtains

I made curtains and a table runner with the same fabric as the fitted sheet.

Vintage Dora Kuhn dollhouse and furniture

I tried to make sure the new curtains didn’t cover too much of the hand-painted window shutters.


The Crib

The tiny crib doll was easy to clean, so she could stay with the dollhouse.  I made some simple bedding for her crib.

Vintage Dora Kuhn dollhouse crib

The Dresser

I didn’t do anything to the dresser but stock it with a few little decor items for my niece to use if she wants.

Vintage Dora Kuhn dollhouse dresser

A tiny clock hangs on wall above it.

Vintage Dora Kuhn dollhouse clock

The Wardrobe

I wondered about the stylized lettering painted on the wardrobe front.  I thought it might be artist initials.

Vintage Dora Kuhn dollhouse wardrobe

But, according to the website I mentioned above, it stands for “Jesus His Savior” and, on the opposite door, “Maria is the Mother of Jesus.”

The wardrobe doors are beautifully painted on the inside.  But the actual cabinets were bare and boring.

Vintage Dora Kuhn dollhouse wardrobe

I still had some pages from a child’s book leftover from my Storybook House project, so I measured and cut an interesting background from a book page to use as “wallpaper.”

Vintage dollhouse wardrobe

I simply pressed it snugly into place in the wardrobe without using any adhesive.  I want to be able to remove it later to keep the wardrobe original.

Then I stocked the wardrobe with a few blankets I made from fabric scraps and a tiny broom that I made myself.

vintage dollhouse wardrobe

After finding this post for guidance, the broom took me about ten minutes to make, and I could use items I already had on hand.

DIY dollhouse broom

The Exterior

I learned that no two Dora Kuhn dollhouses are exactly alike.  For example, the painted exterior trees are slightly different on each one.

Vintage Dora Kuhn dollhouse
Dollhouse side
German dollhouse exterior
Dollhouse back

A Sweet Little Cabin

Lots of furniture is crammed into this little one-room cabin, but it’s a cheerful place.

Vintage German dollhouse and furniture


Vintage German dollhouse and furniture


Vintage German dollhouse and furniture


Vintage Dora Kuhn dollhouse and furniture

Now it just needs . . .

New Occupants

Someone has to take care of that baby and fit the storybook vibe of this place, and these two dolls will do nicely.

Madame Alexander dolls with vintage German dollhouse

Some time back, I stumbled upon one of these these two Madame Alexander McDonald’s Happy Meal dolls on Etsy and the other one at a local vintage sale.  I didn’t pay much for either of them.  These Little Red Riding Hood and Peter Pan dolls are newer and cleaner than the vintage German dolls they replace – and less precious.  So my niece can play with them without any worries.

Right now, they are still getting to know their new home, and they are finding that caring for a baby is a lot of work.  So they’re having a little coffee break.

Madame Alexander dolls with vintage German dollhouse

It’s been fun bringing my old dollhouse back into the daylight and learning things about it that I hadn’t known in all these years.  Now it’s time to go rearrange the furniture!


Vintage dollhouse furniture by Dora Kuhn and others does show up fairly regularly on Etsy – and the affordable and sweet Madame Alexander McDonald’s Happy Meal Dolls are plentiful at the moment.

The actual dollhouses and room boxes by Dora Kuhn, in all their charming sizes, are a bit trickier to find on Etsy, but they do come up on occasion.

Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials.


Here you’ll find seasonal goodies, my current decor obsessions, and more!


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A Gold and Glass Thanksgiving Table

After being immersed in my dressing room remodel for the past six weeks, it’s nice to finally write about something different – especially something as fun as Thanksgiving table decor.

Last year, I’d seen a photo in a home decor magazine that became my inspiration for our Thanksgiving table:  Oil lamp chimneys with candles burning inside were grouped loosely together with a few scattered fall leaves on an off-white tablecloth.  So simple and elegant.

So I found a muslin curtain that I wasn’t using anymore, and it became that simple off-white tablecloth.

Now that I had my “blank canvas,” the fun could begin.  And to me, fun is always more fun when I’m saving money.  Since I had most of what I needed already on hand, this was a very budget-friendly look to pull together.


Gold Leaves

Of course I immediately strayed from the magazine photo that had inspired me.  I couldn’t resist taking home some huge maples leaves I found on a walk in the park.  Maple leaves don’t stay beautiful for very long, so I spray painted mine with Rust-Oleum “Pure Gold” Metallic spray paint.

After they dried, I pressed them, and some other leaves that I’d painted, under glass for a few days.

This was easy since we have a glass piece that covers our dining room table when it’s not extended.  But pressing the leaves into a large book or under a heavy board may have worked too.


The Oil Lamp Chimneys

I took a few of the glass chimneys from vintage oil lamps that we’ve collected over the years and put candles inside.

A small glass ramekin served as the base for each one.

In the magazine photo, the chimneys were of varying heights, which is why they looked so beautiful grouped together.  But, since my chimneys were more or less the same height, I would be scattering them across the table instead of grouping them.


The Result

The reason I loved that magazine photo so much was because, by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, I’m usually already wanting to move on from a fall decor look.  But it’s too early to set the table for Christmas.  This look was such an elegant compromise.

My table ended up looking very different from the photo, but I was still happy with it.

The largest maple leaves became place mats.

Since Thanksgiving comes only once a year, I like to use the good stuff:  Real silverware, vintage china, and vintage crystal wine glasses.




A Word Of Caution

At the end of the evening, I discovered that the candles were a little hard to blow out unless I took the chimneys off first, but the chimneys had become very HOT.  I had to use a pot holder to take them off and sometimes, because of the melted candle wax, they were stuck to the ramekin base.

So, just a little warning that, if you try this, be very careful when you handle the hot chimneys, and also keep kids, pets, and flammable items away from them.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!


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Second Tuesday Art Walk #1

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Welcome to “Second Tuesday Art Walk,” my new feature that comes out on the second Tuesday of every month.  After all, who can’t use a little beauty on a Tuesday?

And it will always be the second Tuesday because – well, actually I don’t remember the reason now.  But here we are.

In no rational order, we’ll be looking at interior design inspiration, fun little discoveries, and things I’m obsessed with.  You can click through the links to learn more about anything you see here.

So grab a cup of coffee, or a glass of wine, and let’s begin.

Gorgeous, Breezy Enclosed Porch

August always has me planning ways to extend summer fun.  That would be a lot easier if I had Ashley’s gorgeous outdoor room.

I especially love those crisp, airy curtains.  Perfect!

Photo courtesy of The Houston House
Charming Repurposed Clothing Projects

Who needs the fabric store if you have old clothes on hand?

SuzerSpace’s sweet DIY purse has me sifting through my husband’s closet to see which shirt he “doesn’t need” anymore.

Photo courtesy of SuzerSpace

Mary over at In The Boondocks also has a talent for repurposing old clothes.  Actually, she’s amazing at repurposing anything.

Here is what she did with an old denim dress and a beach find.

Photo courtesy of In the Boondocks

And I love what she made from an old milk crate and an old blouse.

Beautiful Built-in Sleeping Nook

Sloped ceilings can add so much character to a room.  But they can also be challenging to work with.

Tricia really made the most of her little A-shaped dormer space with this DIY built-in bed.  I love everything about this.  Be sure to check out her before photos!

Photo courtesy of Simplicity in the South

Dream Trailer

Mandi calls her trailer, The Nugget, “the cutest vintage trailer on the internet.”  And I can’t argue with that.

Check out The Nugget’s Reveal and you’ll fall in love too.  The interior photos start about halfway through the post, and there are a lot of charming details to see here.  My favorite little detail is the kitchen faucet.


Photo courtesy of VR Vintage Revivals
Trending Color

Looks like brown is making a strong comeback.  In fact, Country Living is saying that brown is the new black.

Shutterfly has come out with their 75 Enchanting Brown Living Room Ideas.  And one of them features my living room!

Image courtesy of Shutterfly

Shutterfly’s post has some great examples of how brown can bring warmth and balance to a room.  And there’s lots of inspiration for integrating brown into existing decor.

Unexpected Discovery

Recently we took a road trip along the beautiful Oregon Coast.

While antiquing in the small towns there, we found these old cobbler shoe forms for children’s shoes – complete with worm holes.  

The smallest one measures only five inches.  Adorable.

Our laundry room remodel is almost compete, and these little guys will be cute in there grouped with the shoe care supplies.

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I’m intrigued by vintage children’s shoe forms now.  The varying sizes make them so fun for decorating.


Beauty on Sale

Yes, beauty in the form of luxury furniture and accessories!

One King’s Lane has reached out to let me know about their Labor Day sale from 8/31/17 – 9/5/17, when they are offering a site-wide discount of 20%!  And on Monday only, 9/4, they are offering free shipping in addition to the sale.  Just use the code “OKLSHIPSEPT”. Prices on all eligible items will be as marked, and some exclusions apply.

Enjoy the Summer!

Now I’m off to take a late-summer blogging break, but let’s meet back here on the second Tuesday in September.  Thanks so much for visiting today, and enjoy your summer!

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Lobsters, Lanterns, and Paul Revere

My husband Chris and I are pretty sensible people.  We tend to plan and think things through – usually.  But if you’ve ever read my About page, you know that our decision to buy our 1927 cottage was impulsive and driven by passion rather than reason.

And so was our recent trip back east.

It all happened because of Chris’s latest obsession:  Collecting and restoring vintage Coleman lanterns.

Turns out there’s a club for that – the International Coleman Collectors Club (or “ICCC”).  And just a few weeks ago, Chris found out that they were about to have their annual convention.  In Massachusetts.  A five hour flight for us.

Chris asked me if I’d go with him.

I booked our flights before he could change his mind.

But of course, I told him, we couldn’t go all that way just for the convention.  That would be silly.  This seemed like the perfect opportunity to check a couple more things off my bucket list.

Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor

I feel so fortunate to live on the West Coast where we enjoy beautiful sunsets over the Pacific Ocean.

The last rays of sun at Grayland Beach State Park in Washington State.

But I’m always curious about that “other” big ocean way across the country where the sun rises.  Maine in particular seemed so intriguing and romantic to me:  Rugged coastlines, old lighthouses, grizzled fishermen, colorful buoys – and Acadia National Park.

So as soon as our plane landed in Boston, we headed up the coast to the village of Bar Harbor, Maine.

Bar Harbor, Maine
Bar Harbor, Maine

I didn’t really have time to research Bar Harbor before our trip.  I’d always pictured it as rustic and weathered:  Crusty fishermen wearing heavy wool sweaters and pulling lobster traps off their boats.

But it was more gentrified than that:  Lots of great shops and restaurants, and many intriguing lodging options.

Eventually I did find my colorful buoys.

Bar Harbor, Maine

The best part is that Bar Harbor is at the entrance to Acadia National Park.

As national parks go, Acadia is small.  But there’s a lot to see.  On our first day in the park, we enjoyed the rugged coastline.

We caught a glimpse of the remote Egg Island Lighthouse before a heavy blanket of fog moved in.

Egg Island Lighthouse, Maine

And watched water rush through Thunder Hole.

Thunder Hole, Acadia National Park, Maine

We took a murky hike to the summit of Gorham Mountain – all 525 feet.  We learned that these mountains were once much taller, but over the ages erosion has worn them down to their granite bases.

I liked that we got to experience the Maine fog, even if it meant missing the views.

The next day the sun came out, and we made up for lost time.

We hiked at Cadillac Mountain.

Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park

We explored the carriage roads and magnificent stone bridges at Logan Pond.  John D. Rockefeller, Jr had these roads and bridges built when he owned the land.

Carriage Road, Acadia National Park, Maine

Carriage Road Bridge, Acadia National Park, Maine

And we visited the Bass Harbor lighthouse.

Bass Harbor Lighthouse, Maine

This part of Maine smells so good.  Everywhere we went, we were either smelling the fresh ocean air or the fragrant balsam fir.

The L.L.Bean headquarters are a few hours south of Bar Harbor in Freeport, Maine.  There are several  L.L.Bean stores located there and, when we walked into the first one, there it was again:  That smell of balsam fir.  So I bought it to take home.

I’m looking forward to making sachets with the large bag of balsam fir needles.

We also found a drying rack for our laundry room at an antique store.  It’s still working its way across the country to its new home on the West Coast.

But it’s time to move on to the world of vintage lanterns.

All Things Coleman

We headed to rural, inland Massachusetts – to the tiny town of Winchendon.  Here, collectors of all things Coleman, but especially vintage lanterns, were having their annual convention at the senior center.

Now coming from the Pacific Northwest, where our architecture is relatively new, I imagined the senior center to be a dated one-story  building with dingy linoleum floors.

Here is what I found.

Old Murdock Senior Center

The Old Murdock Senior Center was built in the 1880s and was originally a public high school.

Old Murdock Senior Center

In the auditorium, Coleman collectors from around the world shared their treasures, their stories, and their knowledge.

Vintage Coleman

Vintage Coleman Lanterns

From the unusual to the rustic, it was all here.

Vintage Coleman Lanterns

One of the first Coleman lanterns: An Arc lantern, circa 1915.

We were newcomers to the club, and everyone was so welcoming. On the second evening, we joined them in a “light up” outside the senior center.  It was their way of honoring members who had passed – and it was beautiful.

Vintage Coleman Lanterns

Vintage Coleman Lanterns

But it was almost time to fly home, and we were only about an hour and a half from Boston.


We’d visited Boston before, and I just have to say that I love Boston. I love the architecture, the people, and most of all the history.  This is where it all began for the United States.

On our previous visit, we only saw the first part of Boston’s Freedom Trail.  So this time we started at Bunker Hill Monument and worked our way back to Paul Revere Square.

We toured the USS Constitution.  “Old Ironsides,” as they call her, is actually made of live oak.

UCC Constitution

Launched in 1797, she was the second battleship ever to be built for the U.S. Navy.  And she fought pirates.

USS Constitution

No trip to Boston is complete without a visit to a colonial-era graveyard.  We visited Copp’s Hill Burying Ground.  Some of the deceased buried here were born in the 1500s!

Colonial Graveyard, Boston

I loved the timing of our Boston visit:  Right before the 4th of July. There is no better reminder of what Independence Day is really about than touring the Old North Church, where the “one if by land, two if by sea” signal was sent from.

Old North Churck

And admiring a bronze statue of Paul Revere.

Paul Revere and St. Stephens Church

So, to my American readers, Happy Independence Day!

And liberty forever.


A cannon port on the USS Constitution

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  • Chris loves collecting vintage Coleman lanterns because he enjoys searching for them, and often the ones he finds are very affordable.  They don’ take up much space to store or display.  Etsy always seems to have a fun selection of all things Coleman.   Remember though that there is a lot to learn about safely lighting these lanterns.  Please use caution and do your research.
  • The drying rack I found at the antique store is probably not an antique.  But I love it because it’s expandable, and it has a shelf and pegs for more storage.  It look almost exactly like this one on
  • The fragrance of balsam fir comes in many forms.  Now I wish I’d bought the adorable cabin incense burner.  I still might.

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Our Mudroom Before and After

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If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that we’ve been slowly refurbishing the smallest and most neglected room in our house – the mudroom.

Mudroom before

Little Room – Big Embarrassment

The mudroom had become an eyesore over the years. Which was unfortunate since it is the best way – the only way really –  to get out to the back patio where we sometimes have dinner parties.

So when we had people over, I was always tempted to stage some kind of distraction as they walked through the mudroom so they wouldn’t notice how dingy it was.  (“Oh, look out there! Is that an eagle?”) is all new

The biggest challenge with the mudroom is that there are three doors and a large window in this 5′ X 7′ room.  So that really limits wall space.  In this room, we simply can’t do the cool storage lockers or vertical cabinets that look so great in other mudrooms.

Mudroom windows

But in 1927, when the house was built, no one was thinking about wall space in the mudroom because it wasn’t a mudroom then – it was a covered back porch.  And some time later, the porch was enclosed and became a mudroom.

The Makeover

Our mudroom makeover has taken months.  Since it’s next door to our laundry room, and they share the same concrete floor, we’ve been remodeling both rooms simultaneously.

Here is what’s been happening in the mudroom:


This all started back in January when we hired Kenji to refinish the scruffy concrete floors in both rooms.

He took the floors from this

old concrete floor

to this.

remodeled concrete floor


The mudroom was in rough condition.  This corner was the worst part.

Southwest wall before new floor and new paint.

I painted the walls with Benjamin Moore Pale Oak.  For the trim, I used a white paint we’d had custom mixed to match our kitchen cabinets.  Since the mudroom can be seen from the kitchen, this helps unify the spaces.

Southwest wall after paint

The ceiling, still beadboard from when the mudroom was the back porch, didn’t need repainting.  We kept the vintage parrot light here that matches the one we have in our kitchen.

Beadboard ceiling


Now don’t laugh, but here is what was hanging on the wall near the back door before.

North wall before

The large mirror/shelf was from Pottery Barn, and it was really something in its day.  But with wall space being such a premium in this room, a large mirror is the last thing we should have had taking up that space.

Plus the shelf above the mirror was so high that it wasn’t practical to store anything useful, so it became a catch-all for silly things.

We wanted to put shelving there instead, but we couldn’t find any ready-made shelves of the right dimension.

So Chris made these beautiful shelves.

North wall after: Custom mudroom shelving

He bought a piece of fir, cut it to size, and used a router to soften the edges.  Then of course he sanded, stained, and finished the wood.

mudroom shelving

It was a fun little project, but I think the part he enjoyed the most was finding the antique shelf brackets on eBay.

antique brackets

We were very lucky, he says, that someone was selling four of them.

The wire baskets hold hats and gloves.  The shelves sit above a small shoe cabinet.  It all barely fits in the shallow space between the wall and the door.


Chris can display some of his vintage camping lanterns here.

1955 Coleman Lantern

The little shoe cabinet helped us solve a problem:

The Shoe Solution

Chris likes to keep most of his shoes in the mudroom near the door – which really makes sense.  But here is how our shoe situation was before.  Not good!

Shoe bench before

And, since I didn’t want to make things worse, I kept my shoes in the laundry room.

Notice too all the shopping bags stuffed into one cubby, and the basket for hats and gloves above that.  It was a little tower of clutter. And it left us nowhere to sit while putting on shoes.

So as our earliest mudroom project, we converted a little shelf unit that had been sitting by the back door into more shoe storage by adjusting its shelves.  Here is the post for that fun little project.

mudroom shoe storage

This freed up some space in and around the shoe bench.  I repainted the shoe bench and made a cushion.  Now we have somewhere to sit while putting on shoes.

Mudroom shoe bench after

I got rid of the coat rack hanging above the bench since it looked terrible and we never used those jackets.  We use the shopping bags more, so I made a space for them instead.

So the area that looked like this

Mudroom before

now looks like this

Mudroom after

Something Missing

I do miss having a mirror in the room for that quick last look  before heading out, so I’ll find a space to hang a small mirror.  And then we’ll be done.

Clean and Simple

This little room is more functional now.  And it will stay this organized forever!

Just kidding.  Even I am not that delusional.


mudroom remodel

Behind the Door

Let’s open the laundry room door and take a quick look at the progress in there.

Since my last laundry room remodel update, we ordered a quartz countertop for the north wall where the appliances and sink will go.

And now we wait until mid-July for the installation.  In the meantime, we’ve been shopping for accessories including this stainless retractable clothesline, which I can’t wait to install.

But there is something new and exciting.  My brother, Dan, is building us a beautiful custom corner cabinet.

Custom corner cabinet

We wanted to get the most out of this tricky corner without taking up too much floor space.  This corner cabinet is our best option.  And there is no one better to build it than Dan, who has created some gorgeous built-ins for his own house.

It fits nicely under the window.  The drawer still needs to be installed, and it will have the same quartz countertop as the appliance wall.  But it’s already looking perfect for the space.

Materials for the cabinet cost almost nothing.  Dan used old plywood he’d salvaged from his kitchen remodel.  And I had two extra cabinet doors (for our new cabinets) left over from our own kitchen remodel. Luckily they were the right size for the corner cabinet.

So now the corner cabinet matches the sink base.  And both laundry room cabinets match our kitchen cabinets.

And my brother rocks.

Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials.

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Our Kitchen Remodel Series
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Roses, An Easy Patio Tablecloth, and Some Vintage Finds

Are we already in August?  As usual, the summer is going by too fast, and now we only have a few weeks left – with so much we want to do.  So I’ve decided to put this blog down for a little late-summer nap.  While it’s sleeping, I’ll be working on projects to share with you in September.  At least that’s the plan.

And since this is my last post until then, I have all kinds of things to show you.

Costco Roses with Summer Garden Clippings

As I mentioned in my previous post, My Three-Season Greenhouse, my husband gave me two dozen Costco roses for our anniversary.

Arranging roses in a Sunglo Greenhouse

With so many roses, I thought it would be fun to break them into several different arrangements and include some fresh clippings from the garden.

I gathered some of my favorite vases and headed to the greenhouse.

Vintage vases

I had to work fast because it was warm in there and I didn’t want the roses to wither.  I came up with these three arrangements.

Thriller, Filler, Spiller

The old thriller-filler-spiller technique used in container gardening also works well for floral arrangements.

Roses, lady's mantle and love-lies-bleeding in a vintage glass vase

  • Thriller:  Red roses
  • Filler:  Lady’s mantle flowers (Alchemilla mollis or Alchemilla vulgaris)
  • Spiller:  Love-lies-bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus)

I love the fresh green of the lady’s mantle flowers as a substitute for fillers like baby’s breath.  The crimson-tasseled annual called love-lies-bleeding adds a little drama and works nicely with the color of the vintage glass vase.


I set yellow roses upright on a spike frog in a vintage milk glass vase for this buttoned-up look for the master bedroom.

yellow roses with dahlias and maidenhair fern in a milk glass vase

I tucked in maidenhair fern (Adiantum) fronds from the shade garden and, around the perimeter, Bishop of Llandaff dahlias.

This late in summer, most of my summer perennials are starting to fade, but because I deadhead these dahlias, the plants bloom for months.


I put the remaining roses in a tall crystal vase with honeybush (Melianthus major) leaves around the perimeter.  These large silvery leaves add a touch of glamour.

roses with honeybush leaves in a crystal vase

An Easy DIY Patio Tablecloth

Feeling like the summer was getting away from me, I hosted several small get togethers on our patio last week.

Planning the table decor is always half the fun, and I wanted a tablecloth that would complement our china and the chair cushions.

At the fabric store, I came across a whimsical home decor fabric called Sannio Cabana by SMC Swavelle Millcreek.

outdoor table setting

It was 54 inches wide, so I just asked for a 54-inch cut of fabric and hemmed it to have a square tablecloth.

home and garden - outdoor table setting

The square tablecloth worked well with the 42-inch round table.  I positioned it so that it draped elegantly between the chairs yet guests didn’t wind up with a bunch of extra fabric on their laps.

home and garden - square tablecloth on a round table

With a tablecloth this lively, I didn’t need much else in the way of table decor – especially on such a small table.

home and garden - patio party table setting
Photo courtesy of Lisa Wildin

Not wanting to attract bees, I didn’t use any flowers.  The centerpiece was a citronella candle.

home and garden - citronella centerpiece

That and a couple of dryer sheets under the tablecloth did a fairly decent job of keeping pests away.   (Note: For more tips on keeping bugs from crashing a patio party, see this post.)

Minted's Limited Edition Art Prints

My Recent Vintage Finds

I always look forward to the annual garage sale that my neighborhood hosts.  I never participate because I would rather cruise around and see what everyone is selling.

This year I scored with two of these tall fir cabinets with leaded glass doors – for $5 each!  The style is an exact match to the original built-ins in our house.

home and garden - vintage cabinets

They have that “old schoolhouse” smell that I love.  I have several ideas of where to use them in our house, so we’ll see what happens.

My friend, Carolyn, participated in the sale and when I admired these adorable mid century salt and pepper shakers that belonged to her mother, she gave them to me.  Thanks Carolyn!

Mid century salt and pepper shakers

They are perfect for our vintage trailer, the June Bug.

And then while visiting an antique store in the historic Fairhaven district of Bellingham, we found this spike frog to add to my frog collection.

vintage flower frog

I couldn’t resist that rustic patina.

See You in September

I hope those of you living in the Northern hemisphere have a chance to get out and enjoy what is left of your summer.  Let’s meet back here in September!

Disclosure:  This post contains Affiliate Links. 


Here are a few fun tidbits from around the web, including the fabric (at a lower price than I paid) and the salad plates I used in my table setting.

Late summer design inspiration

Center:  Villeroy & Boch Switch 3 Cordoba Salad Plate  Clockwise from top:  Set of 2 Vintage Flower Frogs  | Sannio Cabana fabric by the yard | 4″ Daisy Milk Glass Ruffletop Vase | Beettle Kill Pine Candleholder with Citronella Candles

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Collecting Vintage Christmas Lights

A couple of years ago, I noticed that my husband, Chris, was spending a lot of time at his computer looking at vintage Christmas lights.  At dinner that was all he talked about . . . C-9 bulbs, C-6 bulbs, swirl bulbs, cloth-wrapped cords.  It was no surprise when boxes began arriving at the door.  Chris was starting a vintage Christmas light collection.

Soon our house was softly glowing with warm vintage color.  Since this is one of the prettiest collections we have – not only the lights but their sweet retro packaging – I thought it would be fun to share just a few of his most prized pieces.

Early NOMA Lights

NOMA* (which stands for National Outfit Manufacturer’s Association) was an American company which began in 1925 as a trade group of small manufacturers.  Through the mid-1900s, it was the leading U.S. manufacturer of Christmas lights.

NOMA’s early offerings had cloth-wrapped cords.  This set was manufactured in the 1930s or 1940s.

Vintage Christmas lights: NOMA 15-light decorative set

If only we could find modern lights that have truly independently-burning bulbs, a washer for each Bakelite socket, and cute adjustable berry beads to hold each individual light in place on the tree.

The C-7 bulbs have soft, attractive colors.

Vintage Christmas lights: C-7 lights on cloth-wrapped cord

And I just love these cute fluted C-6 bulbs from the same era.

Vintage Christmas lights: C-6 taper lights on cloth-wrapped cord

Vintage Christmas lights: C-6 taper bulbs lighted

Mid-Century Christmas Lights

In the 1940s, NOMA introduced all-rubber cords.  Fused safety plugs came in 1951.  What a concept!

Vintage Christmas lights: NOMA safety plug lights, mid-1900s

The fuses for the Bakelite plugs were replaceable.  I would be happy just to collect the adorable, tiny boxes that the spare fuses came in.

Vintage Christmas lights: collectible fuse boxes

Another brilliant innovation was the patented process of painting the ceramic glass bulbs on the inside instead of the outside to eliminate paint chipping.

Vintage Christmas lights: C-9 Swirl bulbs

These are C-9 swirl bulbs – classic large outdoor bulbs. There were two manufacturers of swirl bulbs – primarily GE, and to a lesser extent, Westinghouse.  Stamps can be found on some of the bulbs.

Vintage Christmas lights: manufactuerer's stamps on bulbs

They are beautiful lighted.

Vintage Christmas lights: C-9 Bulbs lighted

The Icing on the Cake

I saved the best for last:  This pristine set of never-lit circa 1955 outdoor “Safety Plug” lights.

Vintage Christmas lights, circa 1955

And they never will be lit – as long as Chris owns them anyway.  So now that we have had a look, the lid is going back on the  box.  Show’s over folks.

Vintage Christmas lights

Actually, vintage Christmas lights can be a surprisingly affordable collectible.  Of course the more valuable sets still have their original packaging with everything in good condition.


Here’s a formula to remember:

Vintage + Electrical = Potential Fire/Safety Hazard.

Always have your vintage lights examined by a professional before using them.

The bulbs get very hot very fast, so be careful about what you have them on or around.  Never leave them unattended when lit.

What is Chris Collecting Now?

Chris has moved on from vintage Christmas lights and is collecting another illuminating vintage item.  I hope to share that with you soon, but in the meantime I won’t spoil the surprise.

*There was also a NOMA Corporation in Canada, and a company called NOMA Lights is still in existence in the UK.


Disclosure:  Affiliate links are used below.

Vintage NOMA lights are still plentiful.  A huge selection can be found on Etsy.

Vintage Christmas lights



Browse my shop to find seasonal goodies, my current decor obsessions, and more!




Holiday Reading

The novel Year of the Angels begins and ends with an Old-World Christmas.  But it’s what happens between those two Christmases that makes this book so fascinating.

Year of the Angels


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Flower Frogs 101

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It’s back to school season – time for a basic course in flower frogs.  Why flower frogs?  In part because the holidays are just around the corner and a good centerpiece starts with the right frog.  But mostly because I enjoy collecting vintage flower frogs.  And now I want to talk about them.

How a Frog Collection Starts

A while back, I inherited a few vintage flower frogs from my mother-in-law, Betty.  One was an ancient-looking, tiny spike frog measuring only 1-1/2 inches in diameter.  It intrigued me, especially in contrast to the largest of Betty’s frogs, an obviously much-used glass frog measuring 5 inches in diameter.

Vintage flower frogs

It started me thinking about how much variety there is in the world of vintage frogs  – all the different sizes, shapes, and designs.  I began seeking them out.

Types of Frogs

There are countless flower frog designs out there, but most frogs fall loosely into one of these categories:

Cage Frogs

Usually made of wire, mesh, or metal, cage frogs are very popular.

The green frog on the left is a Dazey Flower Holder with a patent date of 1918.  The copper colored frog on the right is unmarked and has a suction cup on the bottom.

vintage flower frogs - cage frogs

But cage frogs need not be placed only on the bottom of a vase.  If the circumference of the vase works for it and the vase is sufficiently weighted at the bottom, these frogs can be wedged at or near the top for better control of the flowers.

Popular mason jar frog lids are also a form of cage frog.  As the name suggests, they fit on top of a mason jar, taking the place of the lid and turning the mason jar into a vase with a built-in frog.

But I will show you later in this post how to make your own temporary frog that works similarly for any vase.

Glass or Crystal Frogs

Glass or crystal frogs are great because they are usually weighty and stay in place.  Some, like those made of depression glass, are also very decorative.

I acquired the frog in the photo below because it is unusual:  The center hole is larger than the perimeter holes, so one large and showy flower stem can be placed in the center, surrounded by smaller stems – or so I thought.

Vintage flower frog - glass frog

But I wondered why the large center hole is not cut all the way through.  An observant reader solved the mystery:  It is so that it could be used to hold a candle.

I have yet to use this frog, but am looking forward to the possibilities.

I did use a glass frog in this centerpiece.

Daffodils in milk glass vase

Spike Frogs

For practical use, these are by far my favorites because they allow more versatility when arranging flowers, and they are excellent at holding stems exactly where I want them.

Vintage flower frogs - spike frogs

I recently acquired the frog to the far left at an estate sale.  Its rectangular shape is unusual, and the base is early plastic instead of metal.  The stamp on the bottom is intriguing.

spike frog made in california

It’s hard to read, but the bottom line says it’s made in California.  How often do we see that these days?



My favorite spike frog is the tiny one I mentioned earlier.  It works great in shallow bowls and was the glue holding these three arrangements together.

For more on these arrangements, see my posts about my camellia centerpiece,  arranging calla lilies, and the flowering quince.

Wire frogs are nice for arranging flowers in a uniform height and spread.   My mom, Erika, used a wire frog for this arrangement.

Carnation centerpiece

Ceramic Frogs

Vintage ceramic frogs are very decorative in their own right, and some are made by well-known pottery studios such as Weller Pottery.

While on a road trip recently, we stopped at an antique store.  When I saw this frog, I suddenly heard the words “I need this for my frog collection” tumble out of my mouth.

Vintage flower frog
Ceramic pottery frog, circa 1940

The proprietor looked amused that anyone would have a frog collection.

DIY Temporary Frogs

These are not vintage frogs.  In fact they aren’t really frogs at all.  But I just thought I would share a couple of work-arounds that I use when I don’t have the right frog for the job.

For instance, getting back to those mason jar frog lids, what if you don’t have one, or what if you want use something other than a mason jar?  Say you have a pretty glass vase and you don’t want the frog to show through.  No problem – just create a tape grid on top of the vase as I did for these two arrangements.

roses    Hydrangeas in large urn

The how-to can be found in my post on arranging hydrangeas.  You could do the job right and use waterproof clear floral tape, but I find it works for me to just use regular clear tape.

Erika likes to use florist Oasis in her arrangements, and last fall she used it when creating the centerpiece for her fall dinner party.

fall party table setting

Other Uses for Flower Frogs

When not holding a floral arrangement together, these little superheros can serve many purposes.  Glass frogs make great paperweights.  Ceramic, glass, and cage frogs can hold pencils, pens, makeup brushes, small tools, small paintbrushes and other art supplies. Spike frogs can double as stands for business cards, post cards, and place cards at formal dinners.

uses for frogs

Your Grade

If you’ve read this far, then you’ve earned an A in Flower Frogs 101.  Want an A+?  Leave a comment with your own creative use for flower frogs.


Vintage flower frogs are collectible but a savvy shopper can still find them at bargain prices.   You can find so many fun and unusual flower frogs on Etsy.



Want to see more? Browse my photo gallery or check out these categories:

Our Kitchen Remodel Series
Our Master Bath Remodel Series
My Shop
Dan’s Workshop
Decorating and Holidays
Our Little Sunglo Greenhouse
Floral Design
Garden Design
The June Bug Diaries
Our Laundry Room Remodel

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My Edwardian Shamrocks

Since this is the time of year when we are all thinking about green beer and leprechauns, I thought I would share my century-old Irish-German-American shamrocks.

This delicate Irish-inspired china set came from my mother-in-law, Betty, who had a keen eye for special pieces.

antique china

How is it Irish-German-American?

Most of the pieces have a single gold stamp on the bottom that show that they are Pickard, an American maker of fine china.  The mark was used between 1912 (the year the Titanic sank) and 1918.

antique china

So what we have here is an Irish-inspired American china set, right?

Except that the larger plates have two marks.

antique china

This particular Thomas Bavaria mark was used from 1908 until 1939.

And with a little more research, I learned that this pattern was retired in 1915.   And then I knew I had a century-old Irish-German-American china set.

But Two Marks? What is Going On Here?

The Pickard china company (founded in 1893 and still in business today) at one time imported china from Europe and Japan.  One of their suppliers was Thomas.

Pickard then hand-painted and gold-gilded the china in their Chicago location.  They employed notable artists and did many art pieces as well as china sets.  Their work was imaginative, beautiful, and detailed.  Small variations in the hand work set it apart from machine work.

You can see here with the salt and pepper shakers that the height of the gold band varies, something that was probably not planned.

antique china salt and pepper

The cups and saucers have so much character and beautiful color.

antique china cup and saucer

By the time these pieces were made, the Thomas china company in Bavaria was an independent subsidiary of Rosenthal.  Thomas had only been in operation for a few years before their beautiful work caught Rosenthal’s attention.  Different incarnations of the Thomas mark endured until at least 1977.

But during the world wars, Pickard could not import their china.  They moved their operations to Antioch so that they could begin to manufacture their own pieces.  They have a long history of supplying china to the U.S. government as well as foreign dignitaries.

More Shamrocks

My set (really a partial set) comes with some fun pieces.  I love the heart-shaped handle on the sugar bowl lid.

cream and sugar - Pickard

I have one little egg cup.  So cute!

egg cup Pickard

And an interesting little footed bowl.

footed bowl Pickard

Since there are no dinner plates, my set could be a dessert or tea set.

place setting pickard

But that doesn’t explain what appears to be a gravy bowl among the serving pieces.

Serving pieces - Pickard shamrocks
Serving pieces and cup saucer.

I do use these pieces on special occasions, but as you can imagine I handle them very carefully.

antique china


This is all from Betty’s collection, but I am playing with the idea of adding to this set.  While not a dime a dozen, I can still find some pieces on the internet.

It was interesting to learn the history behind this set.  These old things we have in our homes often have a hidden history waiting to be discovered.  What do you have in your china cabinet?


Here are some other stunning examples of Pickard china from Etsy.

Pickard gold platepickard gold rimmed flowerspickard noritakepickard woman artistpickard tulip platepickard shamrocks

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